Talking to Rowena Cooke
Who is the mother figure that helped shape you? In the lead-up to Mother’s Day, we want to celebrate some of the incredible, generous and supportive caregivers in our community. Our series Mother Figures is our way of showing recognition and giving thanks to the diverse range of women who sacrifice so much of themselves in the name of love.
As sisters who lost our mother when we were younger, we know not everyone is lucky enough to have a mother in their lives. Mother Figures is about those people who step up to support us, including step mums, aunties, sisters, foster mums, single parents, grandparents and more. We want to introduce you to 3 amazing women and the mother figure that inspired them. Next up is Rowena Cooke.
Who has been a mother figure to you in your life? Tell us a little about your relationship with them?
My mother is an Italian born immigrant who came to Australia as a nine year old in the 50s. She would have to be the strongest, most generous, kind and stoic woman I know. Our family of six lived on a farm in rural Victoria and after my father passed away when I was twelve, she raised the four of us single handedly, whilst working full time and running the farm.
I have fond memories of my childhood - raising calves, chickens, playing with our dogs and riding our pony. Mum was big on giving us our own responsibilities to help out in any way we could and just getting on with things without complaining. Our holidays were always spent camping with lots of time in nature and my mum definitely instilled an appreciation of the simple things in all of us. She encouraged us to pursue various interests outside of school, which I think was her way of giving us the things she didn't get to experience as a child; ballet lessons, music lessons and playing sports.
She was a very supportive mother to us academically, marching up to our public high school if she thought the teachers weren't up to scratch and she always believed we could go to university and go on to do anything we wanted - and each of us did.
What is a life lesson that you have learnt from this mother figure?
My mum has often said in moments of grief, anger or uncertainty, "Well if you can't have a laugh about it, then where would you be?" Even being dealt some pretty unlucky hands in life, mum always had a clever comment to say that would bring a smile to those around her and bring some lightness back to the situation. I guess she just gets the transient and ever changing nature of life more than most people. Also, she is a big believer in "If you start something, you better finish it". She has a very strong sense of commitment and if you said you were going to do something, you better be sure to follow through.
What event in your life has shaped you and why?
The birth of my first daughter was a brutal initiation into the reality of maternity care in Australia, and the lack of understanding for the natural physiological and emotional process of birthing that so many birthing women have entering 'the system'. It left me with a fire in my belly that has led me to do the doula work I do now.
This being juxtaposed with the healing and transformative home birth of my second daughter showed me the incredible power of birthing women when they have the right supports to be with them through this experience. If I can help other mothers realise their power in birth and help change the landscape of our current birth and postpartum care then I will be happy.
What advice would you give your 20 year old self?
Stop worrying about how other people perceive you. Look within yourself to what makes you you, what lights you up, and then show up in the world being this true version of yourself. You have all the power within you - stop looking for it elsewhere. Also, you will find a beautiful human to love and have a family with, so stop worrying about it.
What are you most proud of about yourself?
Definitely bringing my two daughters earthside and being their mother. Doing all the inner work, delving through the pits of my own self beliefs and reconnecting with my inner self knowing what I had to do to prepare for the birth of my second baby. Continuing to show up as a mother, each and every day in a way that aligns with my values and the type of mother I want to be. I am proud of myself for prioritizing motherhood in a time where this is not the norm in our modern culture.